Why is Turkey's potential membership in the European Union such good news?
Don't Panic!... Your war questions answered
On Dec. 17, excited representatives of the European Union and Turkey emerged from a long series of meetings about Turkey joining the E.U. to announce that the two parties had agreed to begin another long series of meetings about Turkey joining the E.U.
If all goes according to plan, those meetings will spur discussions. Those discussions might lead to talks, which in turn might spark deliberations that very well could turn into negotiations.
If the entire process goes well, Turkey can expect to become a member of the E.U. around 2016 (give or take three years).
On the surface, news that hundreds of bureaucrats have agreed to have a bunch of long, boring meetings about the exact same subject for the next 12 years might not seem like good news to anyone outside the travel, catering and professional escort industries. In reality, though, Turkey moving closer to E.U. membership, however slowly, is good news for me and you and that guy sitting right next to you and so on.
Allow me to go all big picture on yo' ass. The War on Terror(TM) isn't going to be won by an American politician's declarations of manliness, nor will it be won with American firepower. It will be won when democratic, non-fundamentalist Muslims take charge of their countries and lead them into social and economic modernity.
Turkey is a rare bird: a country that's already both Muslim and democratic. We freedom-loving Westerners need to reward Turkey by allowing it into the E.U., the cool gang it so desperately wants to join. The country already is part of Europe's two other most important organizations: NATO, to which it offers the largest European army, and the UEFA, the body that governs European football.
Despite the rise of fundamentalism throughout the Muslim world, the idea of secularism is still strong in Turkey. The only two countries in Europe that ban religious headwear from being worn in public schools are Turkey and France.
Turkey ain't perfect by any stretch of the imagination. It doesn't have a stellar history of respecting human rights in general or the rights of women and minorities in particular. It's also very poor. The prospect of joining the E.U., however, has spurred Turkey to address several of its nastier shortcomings.
This year, for the first time, the Turkish government lifted the ban on Kurdish-language broadcasts, which had been put in place as part of an ill-conceived effort to thwart Kurdish independence by destroying Kurdish culture. Kurdish-language private schools also have recently been allowed to open.
Also thanks to the prospect of E.U. membership, Turkey is finally beginning to address its appalling treatment of women. Violence against women is epidemic there, with Amnesty International citing the country as having one of the highest rates of violence against women in the world. The government had reinforced the problem by essentially condoning it. The most notorious recent example is of a Turkish judge who reduced a rapist's prison sentence after he promised to marry his victim.
To garner approval of E.U. members, Turkish leaders and religious officials are finally speaking out forcefully against so-called honor killings, too. An honor killing is when family members kill a woman who has had an extramarital affair or has been raped. In order to gain admittance to the E.U., Turks will have to confine their murdering to Western-approved types such as "robbery gone wrong," "drunken argument with deadly consequences," "violent drug-turf wars," and "dude had no business looking at me like that."
Last, and certainly not least, Turkey's membership in the E.U. will undoubtedly lead to a peaceful resolution of the military conflict in Cyprus. Turkey's military occupies half of Cyprus. The other half, which is controlled by ethnic Greeks and is already a member of the E.U., will veto Turkey's membership if Turkey does not recognize its political legitimacy. Before it even gets anywhere near veto-threat-level, however, the E.U. will push all sides into negotiations.
All this Turkey is making me sleepy. I'm gonna go take a nap now.